At the beginning of his campaign, President Trump, then a candidate, said he is committed to appointing conservative justices to the Supreme Court. These justices could overturn or cripple Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that ruled that state laws restricting or criminalizing abortions violated a woman’s right to privacy under the 14th Amendment and thus were unconstitutional.
In 2016, Mike Pence, who is now the vice president, said Americans would see the ruling “consigned to the ash heap of history, where it belongs.”
After taking office, Trump nominated Neil M. Gorsuch, who is now a Supreme Court justice. During Gorsuch’s confirmation hearing, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said that he poses a threat to Roe. Now, with the retirement of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, Trump has the opportunity to put another conservative justice on the court. Abortion rights advocates are concerned about how the new makeup of the high court could affect American women.
NARAL Pro-Choice America, an organization that advocates expanding abortion access, announced that Kennedy’s retirement meant the right to have an abortion in the United States was in “dire, immediate danger.”
“It’s not rhetoric, it’s not hyperbolic, it’s exactly the situation we’re in,” Leslie McGorman, deputy policy director for NARAL, told The Washington Post.
In other parts of the world that don’t have blanket rulings like Roe that bar criminalizing abortion, there are tight restrictions and outright bans of abortions. Research from recent years show that regardless of a country’s abortion laws, such procedures continue to happen everywhere — they just become less safe in places where they’re illegal.
Until May, Ireland had a near-total ban on abortion, although the procedure has more recently been allowed when it was necessary to save the mother’s life. Ireland’s law against abortion was considered one of the most restrictive and punitive in the entire developed world: Those who sought or provided abortions in Ireland faced up to 14 years in prison.
On May 26, Irish voters in a landslide referendum chose to legalize unrestricted abortion up to 12 weeks. In cases that pose serious risk to the mother or fatal fetal abnormalities, abortion will also be accessible beyond the first trimester.
“Before changing that law, women who were wealthier traveled . . . to Britain to obtain their abortions,” said Heather Boonstra, director of public policy at the Guttmacher Institute. “You could see something similar happening in the U.S. where people have to travel further, with more of a patchwork of accessibility and availability.”
In Guatemala, abortion is illegal unless it will save a mother’s life.
In the United States, it’s becoming more difficult for women living in some Republican-led states to get an abortion.
Some legislatures are pushing measures that could effectively end access to abortions in their states. A bill introduced in Ohio in March suggested banning abortions there and equating an “unborn human” to a living person, meaning under Ohio’s criminal code, doctors or women who provide or receive abortions could potentially be charged with murder. The proposed Ohio measure, as well as others already signed into law in other states, could result in future cases before the Supreme Court.
El Salvador is an extreme example of abortion restriction. But some activists think it’s not too far of a cry from what parts of the United States could look like if states are empowered to roll back abortion rights.
“They’ve shown us where we will go as a country if it is not available or legal,” said Paula Avila-Guillen, director of Latin American initiatives at the Women’s Equality Center, a group that supports reproductive rights campaigns around the world. “It’s not a mystery about where we’ll end up.”